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Middlebury College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Mongolia: Culture and Development

Abstract

This paper seeks to examine the relationship in Mongolia between Buddhism and the environment, as well as the condition of that relationship, the environmental work being done out of the motivation of Buddhist beliefs, and how to improve the environmental condition through Buddhism. Great understanding of this topic was obtained through interviews with Buddhist monks, of both Mongolian and Western origins and from both urban Ulaanbaatar and the rural countryside of Mongolia. Perhaps some of the greatest understanding came from simple everyday observations and interactions with the Buddhist community. Concrete textual information came from reading endless Buddhist sutras, scholarly books, essays, and articles to support the views from interviews and observations. This paper shows that the connection between Buddhism and the environment is incredibly strong and even inseparable. By simply acting out of true compassion and wisdom, the two basic and central tenants of Buddhism, one will naturally treat the environment with great respect; with the exact same respect one would show one’s own mother, as is further explained. This intrinsic and profoundly strong relationship makes Buddhism an excellent path for solving environmental problems. And considering the state of the environment in Mongolia, a country with a majority population of Buddhists, this path is ultimately the best way to enact change. However, this paper also addresses how the weak condition of Buddhism in the new post-Soviet materialistically driven Mongolia is not yet able to have the same kind of positive effect amongst the people as in the past. However, the research does also show the impressive work that is being done by the Buddhist community in the environmental field. Of most importance though is the examination of how through personal change, following Buddhist beliefs, the greatest environmental change can occur. The revival of Buddhism as a powerful spiritual force in Mongolians’ lives is crucial to the revival of the beautiful natural environment around them.

Disciplines

Natural Resources and Conservation | Religion

 

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